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Zen and English, Part 2: Water
The Post of Water
Water represents motion, mobility, and subtlety. Water takes many forms, from oceans, to steam, to clouds, to rain, to raging torrents, to snow, to ice bergs, to tranquil lakes.
Water follows the path of least resistance. Water carves rivers out of mountains and plains, but does so only because it follows the most efficient path over and over again. At any single moment in time, water is the weaker element; however, because of water’s persistence, it triumphs over earth in the end. By persistence and flexibility, weakness is transformed into strength.
So it is with the human mind.
Water represents flexibility in the use of language.
English is a language that rarely has only one way to express something. Although our choices of what is correct is based upon fundamental knowledge, water teaches us to be open-minded about how to apply this knowledge.
Water teaches us to be efficient in our use of language, following the path of least resistance. If we have a choice between two equally valid options, and one takes 3 words while the other takes 5, we should be open to choosing the one with 3 words purely because it is shorter. Waste is not the path of least resistance.
Water also teaches us to be flexible, not locked into a single path or a single choice of words. Through building a broader vocabulary, and through understanding the use of synonyms, we develop options that give us opportunities to fine tune our presentation, making our writing clearer and more effective with a minimum of loss.
In this way, we learn to be concise, which helps us convey the content of our thoughts to those we are speaking or writing to.
First, we understand what can be correct. Then, we choose what is best, considering all of the options with an open mind.
Finally, we must remember that while water is not limited to one form, it always takes one form or another. It always has a form. Water is not formless; it simply alters its form according to circumstances.
Let us meditate upon this.